Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yosemite 2013, Leaning Tower West Face

My mission of the day was to get some ice from the store. That was enough action to fill my day with excitement. And I really wanted to keep my beers cold.

After Zodiac I found it hard to get motivated again. I had already done what I wanted to do, and getting up and do another route on El Capitan felt like a lot of work. Zodiac had been perfect, and now I just wanted to enjoy this rare moment of satisfaction.

The feeling didn't last too long, and soon I was reading the guidebook again. However, I wanted to do something easier and faster than Zodiac. Something I could do in a day. After a while I realized there was only one route left that I really wanted to do: West Face on Leaning Tower.

West Face (V 5.7 C2F) is not very long or hard. It's a bit easier and shorter than Prow. Actually it's one of the easiest Bigwalls in Yosemite. But it would be perfect for me. Something I should be able to do in a day.

I had already chosen a day to climb it, but as the weather forecast got worse I decided to get going right away. Something I had learned... storms in Yosemite can be pretty nasty in the end of September.

I also felt like I was starting to get a flu. Most of my neighbors at Camp 4 were sick and I actually was a bit surprised that I had been healthy so far. I didn't feel too bad, but by throat was already sore and I didn't want to wait until I was sick for real.

Later in the afternoon I got a ride to Bridalveil Fall parking area (Thanks Tommi!) and hiked up to the base of Leaning Tower. I had already walked up once before and carried some water at the base.

I saw a group of four that was just on their way down from the "chimney rappels". This is the descent route, eight rappels from the top, most of them inside a gully.

They had done the route in four days and looked a bit skeptical when I said I'm trying to do the route in a day. Actually, now when I think about it, my neighbors at Camp 4 had also done the route in four days...

I didn't really know what to think, it's always hard to know how fast or slow you are compared to the others. One of these guys said he had done Zodiac and Mescalito as well, but he still needed four days (and a huge cheat stick?) with West Face. And he was with partners. Well, maybe they liked to watch sunsets and drink beer like me.

I went to sleep quite early, but sleeping before a big day was difficult as usual. At first I woke up because it was so cold, then later because my sleeping bag was wet. No, I didn't pee in the bag but all my clothes and bag were wet from sweating. I had fever. Fuck me.

I woke up during the night as fever got up and down. At three o'clock I had had enough and got up. I wondered if I should start to climb or walk back to Camp 4. I felt like shit, but this was my last chance to climb something. I had only a few days left in Yosemite.

Of course I wanted to do the route. Maybe it would feel better when I was climbing? At 4:33 AM I started to climb the steep face.

Less than four hours later, at 7:14 AM, I was at the Ahwahnee Ledge. This is a big ledge where most parties spend a night. Of course there were some guys waking up. However, they had already fixed two more pitches and they jumared up as I started to climb the fifth pitch.

I linked fifth and sixth pitch and met them at the top of the sixth pitch again. I built up an anchor at the bolt traverse just below their anchor. I rappelled, cleaned and "hauled" (just a small backpack) and started to climb the next pitch.

Even though I had to build an anchor below them a couple of times, this wasn't really a problem. (except that I couldn't link pitches as I had planned) Usually the time I used for cleaning was enough for them to move higher up. I didn't really have to wait for them. And when I did, it was usually a good time to eat something.

Also, I was getting more tired and they started to climb faster. This was perfect, I was a bit afraid that I would need to pass them, and then I would be in their way for the rest of the climb.

By the time I reached the 10th pitch, they were already gone from my sight. I linked the last two pitches and when I finally had my backpack on the top, I took my camera and took a photo of my backpack. The reason was that my camera records the time of capture. This is pretty nice to keep track on how fast or slow I've been climbing.

The clock was 5:02 PM. That is 12 h 29 min of climbing.

I'm still not sure which kind of climbing is more fun. This time I missed a cool bivy on the wall, but I have to admit that topping out a big route when there is still a plenty of sunlight left was pretty special too.

 Leaning Tower

 Team rappelling down from chimney rappels 

 A four persons team and food for four days...that's four haulbags. Must have been nice in the chimneys 

 Starting the route 

 The view from Ahwahnee Ledge. I don't have any photos from the first four pitches as it was dark. 

 The fifth pitch is a cool traverse from Ahwahnee Ledge. 

Climbing was super nice, but I didn't feel too good. I know you shouldn't train while sick, but it's sort of hard to climb a bigwall without sweating.

 At the top of sixth pitch I built an anchor right next to the other team. Here they are about to haul and I'm rappelling down. 

 My turn to haul. You can see my backpack hanging at the end of the rope. 

 Seventh pitch, a very nice overhanging dihedral. Looked like superb free climbing. 

 Eight and ninth pitch. The free hanging rope gives some idea about the steepness. 

 I only got to climb in the sun at very end of the route. Here I'm cleaning the last pitches, just 20 meters below the top. 

 In the lack of better top shots: here is the picture of my backpack on the top. 

 I made two rappels (25 m + 60 m) to reach the beginning of Chimney Rappels 

 Down in the gully... 

 I used a 6 mm Rapline to pull the ropes down. I think you could do most of the rappels with just one 60 meter rope, but the last two are better with two 60 meter ropes.

Two hours and eight rappels later I reached the ground again, just at the sunset.

  It's definitely nicer to hike down with a bag like this.

 This is how I got back to Camp 4. (Thanks to a kind Indian family!)

 Happy Halloween!